Share This


Months of gestation for baby elephants

Elephant mother caresses her young calf with her trunk as it tries to stand

At birth a baby elephant, called a calf, may stand three feet (one meter) tall. A calf is very dependent upon its mother and other members of the herd. Herd mates tend to help look after calves, even if the baby belongs to another elephant.



Have You Herd?

Elephants are extremely social. They live in matriarchal herds, working together to raise babies, find food, and protect each other. With long gestation periods (lasting up to 22 months) and calves that may not wean until they’re ten years old, populations of these majestic icons are slow to recover.



Close-up of elephant displaying its tusks. Authorities with seized illegal elephant tusks.

Left: An elephant displays its tusks. Right: Elephant tusks confiscated from the illegal ivory trade.


Years for an elephant to mature.

Tusk to Tusk

The largest land animal is ruthlessly hunted by its one enemy: humans. Elephants and humans have a lot in common when it comes to family units and working together. But elephants have something humans want: ivory. Elephants are being slaughtered for their tusks at skyrocketing rates. Their tusks are made from dentine, the same as human teeth, and sold on the black market for a premium price.

Left or right?

Elephants favor one tusk over the other, much like we do with our hands.

Adult and baby elephants walk on a dried lake bed

Elephants eat all types of vegetation, from grass and fruit to leaves and bark—about 165 to 330 pounds (75 to 150 kilograms) each day, which is about 4 to 6 percent of their body weight. They spend an average of 16 hours per day eating!



Massive Appetites

Habitat encroachment is also a problem for elephants. With less available land to forage for food and find water, elephants’ monumental appetites often mean they eat themselves out of house and home, literally. And when they can’t access enough food or find water, they die.

Lone elephant walking on dried savanna grass

Together, we can
turn things around.

One Step at a Time

San Diego Zoo Global works with local communities in Africa to relocate elephants into safer habitats, provide anti-poaching patrols, and combat the ivory trade through alternate sources of income, including conservation work.



Baby elephants walking in a group on dirt ground

On average, elephant calves gain 2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.3 kilograms) a day in their first year!


Pounds of food an adult elephant typically eats every day.

Working alongside our community conservation partners, we rescue young elephants orphaned in the poaching war, hand-raise and rehabilitate them, and place them safely back in the wild with new herds. We’re also using science to study elephant movements, reproduction, and behavior to ensure these gentle giants are here for generations to come. We can’t do it without your help.

Three adult elephant marching in single file amongst African bush